Drug metabolism in chronic renal failure

Curr Drug Metab. 2003 Apr;4(2):91-103. doi: 10.2174/1389200033489532.


Pharmacokinetic studies conducted in patients with CRF demonstrate that the nonrenal clearance of multiple drugs is reduced. Although the mechanism by which this occurs is unclear, several studies have shown that CRF affects the metabolism of drugs by inhibiting key enzymatic systems in the liver, intestine and kidney. The down-regulation of selected isoforms of the hepatic cytochrome P450 (CYP450) has been reported secondary to a decrease in gene expression. This is associated with major reductions in metabolism of drugs mediated by CYP450. The main hypothesis to explain the decrease in liver CYP450 activity in CRF appears to be the accumulation of circulating factors which can modulate CYP450 activity. Liver phase II metabolic reactions are also reduced in CRF. On the other hand, intestinal drug disposition is affected in CRF. Increased bioavailability of several drugs has been reported in CRF, reflecting decrease in either intestinal first-pass metabolism or extrusion of drugs (mediated by P-glycoprotein). Indeed, intestinal CYP450 is also down-regulated secondary to reduced gene expression, whereas, decreased intestinal P-glycoprotein activity has been described. Finally, although the kidneys play a major role in the excretion of drugs, it has the capacity to metabolize endogenous and exogenous compounds. CRF will lead to a decrease in the ability of the kidney to metabolize drugs, but the repercussions on the systemic clearance of drugs is still poorly defined, except for selected xenobiotics. In conclusion, reduced drug metabolism should be taken into account when evaluating the pharmacokinetics of drugs in patients with CRF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / enzymology
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / enzymology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics


  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System